Over the years I've worked (creatively) with a lot of different types of people. The older and crankier I get, the less I want to work with anyone.
But there is a reasonable explanation .... if you're open to my interpretation of reason.
We all have our ideals. I'm not entirely sure how mine were shaped, but I always had a vision for what creative collaboration would look like. Everything I did in years past was in pursuit of that idealized vision, to the point that I was shouldering an unreasonable burden to craft collaborative video with friends on YouTube.
I think I can mark the slow-motion shattering of that vision when I started working professional creative jobs -- and this isn't meant to diminish past or current colleagues, but to point out how creativity operates on different levels and feeding the Creative Beast just isn't something everyone is equipped to do.
Every time I started working with a new group of people, professionally, I went in with these lofty expectations of collaboration that were slowly whittled away. There were positive highlights, of course: I love being able to inspire creativity in others. I love getting a chance to teach a technical aspect of something (video editing technique). I love encouraging those who have a passion learn.
In other words, I'm rather good at (and enjoy) feeding other peoples' Creative Beasts.
The exchange is rarely mutual, though. I look out for my personal Beast and feed it accordingly, but I don't often see it being fed through collaboration.
So after awhile, that idealized vision of creative collaboration fades away. I even got to a point where, if a project required outside help, I'd skip it all together and do something that I would have full 100% control over. It just wasn't worth involving other people only to be let down ... and see your project or art suffer for it.
This is a sustainable path, but the positive (only needing to rely on yourself to create) can easily become a negative when there's no one else around to motivate you. And creativity itself thrives in conflict and the exchange of ideas -- being a jack-of-all-trades solo artist often means you have to find ways to compensate for that.
It's not all hopeless, however, on either front. I've been lucky enough to see a few flickers of honest and genuine collaboration and it's something I'm eager to add to my creative toolbox.
Here's my new idealized view of creative collaboration:
Great collaborators inspire each other. It's that exchange of conflict and ideas that creativity likes to thrive.
My best collaborations happen when I'm challenged to do something different, new, or better. Homeostasis is the opposite of creativity, so challenging the norm -- whether or not that may seem productive -- has to be a fundamental rule of collaboration.
Without honesty, you have no trust. Without trust, how can you ever know if your collaborator has anything of value to contribute?
Stay creative ... and happy collaborations.
Welcome to the Church of Creativity and General Fuckery.
There, it’s started. That’s the hard part, right?
My name is Jordan, but you can call me Reverend Krumbine. Or White Chocolate. Or “Hey, you fucking arrogant asshole!”. Or don’t call me at all — I’d rather a text, and if I’m feeling particularly cranky, a good old-fashioned email. PRO TIP: smoke signals are also good, but only if they come from a nice, robust cigar with a tasty alcoholic beverage on the side.
By way of a thumbnail introduction: I’m a cranky old bastard stuck in a 30-some-year-old’s body. I’m married with four cats and one giant fur ball I affectionately call Fluffy Motherfucker. I like dinosaurs, weird instrumental music from dubstep to Doctor Who, dinosaurs, gadgets, and am painfully passionate about creativity.
Okay, that’s out of the way. What next?
What? Exactly. What.
What’s fucking next.
I had one of those soul-crushing existential self-examinations today (PRO-TIP: get drunk) and realized an on-going pattern-slash-frustration of dumping a creative project as soon as it becomes too complicated or routine.
The soul-crushing part came when I realized that the aforementioned realization was totally wrong.
How fucked up is it when you realize that the truth you just figured out about yourself is a total fucking lie? Hashtag-relatable? Anybody? No?
There this one video project that I always return to over the years called krumbinesBRAIN. It’s a simple concept — through the magic of brilliant script writing and even more brilliant video editing, I argue with myself for a minute (or so) at a time. Earlier this year, I picked the project back up and honed it to a fine point over the course of 10+ episodes.
And then I stopped.
Sure, there were extenuating circumstances. Houseguests. Schedules. Creative space. Motivation.
But the real problem, as I’m only now appreciating, was that having “perfected” the format (to wit: a tightly-animated intro-and outro featuring a lovingly-hand-illustrated logo) there was no “what’s next” left in the project.
Sure, there’s always new material to write and perform, but that wasn’t enough for me. It’s all just part of the same routine.
I’m having the same problem at my day job at the Orlando Sentinel as a video editor/producer/photographer. I’ve gotten over the learning curve of producing creative on a 9-5 schedule for a corporation, I’ve invented (or perfected) dozens of formats and shows for the paper’s website, and I’ve even abandoned all traditional DSLR cameras just for the challenge of heading out on an assignment with only my iPhone in-hand. And after about two months, even THAT has become routine.
I’ll humblebrag here and say that part of the problem is that I aim to be the best at what I do. And perfection, while great to strive for, is a boring place to live.
When it comes to creativity, I happen to be very good at what I do. Which is exactly why I need to do something else.
Okay. So what’s next?
Well, shit. Fuck if I know.
I will tell you this: a sure-fire way to stave off the banality of day-in-day-out fuckery is to collaborate and work with people who will challenge and inspire your creative drive.
It’s not impossible to find. But in my experience, it has been rare. If you find it, hang on to it.
Stay creative, my friends. And let me know if you figure out what's next.